Tag Archives: clean eating

Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay: How to Use “Bad” Foods to (Finally) Reach Your Goals

Sure you can lose weight eating ice cream every day, but it’s not healthy.” This is probably the number one argument I hear from people who promote a strictly “clean eating” approach to dieting when I talk about flexible dieting or specifically my diet. I’m dead serious when I say there’s barely a day that goes by where I don’t eat ice cream (and before bed too, gasp.) So while physically it looks like I’m in pretty good shape, I guess I’m unhealthy (my health markers would say otherwise, for the record.)

Hey I get it, I used to be a clean eater too. I think the majority of people who start out do the same thing. After all we’re told all the time to avoid junk food and eat more veggies right? Besides, it’s certainly good and I encourage a large portion of anyone’s diet to by nutrient dense and whole foods. They’ll typically have more vitamins/minerals and be more satiating, not to mention have a higher thermic effect of food. But does that mean eating ice cream, pizza, cookies or a glass of wine in any amount is automatically unhealthy?

I’ll say this much… Foods like junk food, fast food, sugary snacks, etc. are void of micronutrients and aren’t very filling so they can be easy to overeat, but does that mean they’re unhealthy? Well I believe that requires some context. I truly believe no food, on it’s own, is unhealthy. Say for instance a person is literally starving to death. If they’re offered a pizza should they turn it down because it’s “not healthy?” Of course not, in fact those calories would be VERY healthy to them. Calories are a good thing, they give us energy and make us function. It’s when we go too far in one direction where it becomes a problem.

But what about someone who eats a balanced diet, is health conscious and exercises regularly? Is incorporating a little ice cream into their diet daily really unhealthy? Is any amount of “bad” food ALWAYS bad? After all the argument here is that eating certain foods is always unhealthy no matter what, right? Well research doesn’t exactly support that argument…

Let’s take a closer look at sugar. EVERYONE can agree sugar is bad right? In fact I’ve literally had people tell me sugar was “the devil” (not joking.) Well again, this requires context. Again, yes sugar is easy to over eat and void of nutrients. My precious ice cream certainly has sugar in it, so am I unhealthy? Well there was a study published in 1997 that looked at the effect of sugar in a diet when protein, carbs and fat were matched. (1) In one group sugar made up 4% of their calories and in the other group 43% of calories came from sugar. That was the difference of about 11 grams of sugar per day and 118! Guess what? At the end of the study both groups lost the same amount of weight, both showed decreases in depression, hunger, negative mood and increases in vigilance and positive mood. But remember, the argument is that you can lose weight, but it’s not healthy. Well both groups also saw the same improvements in blood pressure, blood glucose, thyroid hormones and markers of inflammation with the only difference between a slight advantage to the low sugar group (less than a 10% difference) in cholesterol and blood lips. Which I’d make the argument it was because fiber was not matched. There are also other studies that looked at the difference between complex and simple carbs (often looked at as “good” or “bad” carbs) where they found no difference in weight loss or blood lipids. (2,3,4)

Besides research showing positive results despite the actual types of foods eaten, there are number anecdotal subjects who went through extreme measures to prove no foods were bad so long as you ate below maintenance. Remember the documentary “Supersize Me?” The guy ate nothing but McDonald’s, didn’t control calories at all, stopped exercising and gained a bunch of weight. (Duh) The whole world screamed for McDonald’s to be shut down because it’s making the world fat. Well a guy by the name of John Cisna didn’t agree and set out to prove them wrong. He spent 6 months eating NOTHING but McDonald’s. Following a 2,000 calorie diet he ended up losing 56 lbs, saw his cholesterol drop from 249 to 190 and by the end of it all he had normal sodium and blood pressure levels.

Or how about Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition, who spent 2 months on what he called the “Twinkie Diet” eating two thirds of his food from things like Twinkies, Oreos, Little Debbie snacks and sugary cereals? He lost 27 lbs, his LDL (“bad cholesterol”) dropped by 20% and his HDL (“good cholesterol”) increased by 20% while seeing his triglycerides drop by 39%.

Then there is a man who runs a YouTube channel called “Abs & Ice Cream” who recently spent 100 days eating 2000 calories worth of ice cream… (Plus about 500 calories from whey protein.) Every. Single. Day. When I heard about this, you better believe I was paying attention. Guess what? He lost 32 lbs, his triglycerides dropped 25 points, HDL went up 17 points, LDL went down 6 points, and they rated his overall cardiac risk factors and it went from 2.3 to 1.6. Eating 2,000 calories of ice cream every day! But yeah my one bowl is unhealthy…

But I digress.

What does all this tell us? Well we should go out and eat whatever the hell we want and just control calories! Okay no, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But it does show that you CAN eat foods most deem as “unhealthy” and still be healthy. Furthermore I think it CLEARLY shows that how much bodyfat you store is a much bigger health factor than the actual foods you eat. Again, I still think a major portion of your diet should be from nutritious foods, but at that doesn’t mean you need to, or even should avoid certain foods because you think they’re bad. We always have to remember weight loss isn’t just a physical thing, the psychological side of things is not only just as important, but in my opinion MORE important.

It doesn’t matter how “optimal” a diet is if you can’t stick to it.

It doesn’t matter how “optimal” a diet is if you can’t stick to it. I’ve given you these stats before but it’s worth mentioning over and over. The evidence of weight loss success (meaning keeping it off) is BLEAK. Almost everyone who becomes obese loses a significant amount of weight in their life. But of those people less than 5% keep the weight off long-term. (5) FIVE PERCENT. That is a staggering number. I believe a big reason is because nobody thinks about sustainability when they diet. It’s always this mad dash to the finish line. Cutting out all their favorite foods, starving themselves, never thinking about how they’ll maintain the weight when (or more like if) it comes off. It doesn’t matter what you do to lose the weight if you can’t keep doing it when the weight is gone. THIS is why I find it so important include foods you enjoy into your diet and learn about moderation. If you’re controlling your intake, especially if you’re matching calories, protein and fiber, the actual foods you eat mean next to nothing. It’s time to stop looking for magic foods and start looking for something a little more realistic. No foods by themselves inherently make you fat or thin, everything requires CONTEXT.

 

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For more information from Colin you may download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on an email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails. Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you’re sensitive you may want to pass.

 

Colin DeWaay holds a personal training certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He’s the owner of Colin DeWaay Training LLC, an online strength and nutrition consulting business that fully customizes training and nutrition programs for those interested in general fitness all the way up to advanced powerlifting programs. He specializes in helping people with a history of yoyo dieting create a more sustainable healthy lifestyle, improving metabolism through reverse dieting if necessary, and helping make binges a thing of the past by creating a healthy relationship with food utilizing flexible dieting. His goal is not to produce quick results, but to help produce realistic, sustainable results that last.

http://colindewaaytraining.com/

https://www.youtube.com/c/colindewaay

https://www.facebook.com/ColinDeWaayTraining/

 

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Flexible Dieting – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

One of the most common questions I get is  “Tammy, what diet plan do you use?”  When I first started my health transformation, I was a strict clean-eater.  I needed to do that to learn about nutrition and how my healthy body was going to work.  Along the way, I also learned that I started to wear deprivation like a cloak on a martyr…not a good look on anyone.  (That sounds like a future blog post.)  Things needed to change.  Now, I’m all about  finding a balance that works in my life.  I have goals in the gym, physique goals for the stage, but this is also how I want to live.  Borrowing a phrase from a comment made on this blog a few years ago…”food is fuel and sometimes you need diesel”.  I’m now a flexible eater.  My friend Colin explains…

In my first guest blog for Tammy I talked about how we don’t really have a weight loss problem in this world like most people think but it’s more of a “keep the weight off” problem. We talked about why most diets fail long-term and we talked about the importance of keeping calories as high as possible while losing weight. If you missed it I recommend checking that out before reading this as it will help make this article and the rest of the series to come make a lot more sense.

Okay so now you know to keep calories high. You know that weight loss shouldn’t be taken too fast. But even with that knowledge most will still be set up to fail. Why? Because most of the fitness world is preaching restriction to lose weight. No gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods, no soda, no diet soda, no anything with artificial ingredients, nothing with GMO and the list goes on and on. Basically if you aren’t eating nothing but free range chicken breast (no skin of course) with fresh broccoli and 5 times filtered water from the Appalachian Mountains you are doing it wrong and you’re going to die.

Like I said last time, if your diet is going to work it must be sustainable. Are you really going to be able to sustain a diet that banishes all the foods you love? Nobody has infinite willpower. Maybe you can go a week or two or even a couple of months without pizza, cookies, wine, whatever it is your favorite foods are. But eventually you’ll snap, and since you don’t practice moderation you binge. Then you’ll feel guilty, feel like a failure, give up and go back to the way things were. (Tell me that doesn’t sound familiar…)

This is where flexible dieting comes in. It’s what I use and what I teach and utilize with my clients. This is a form of dieting that doesn’t make any foods off limits, and I even encourage people to have a little fun and enjoy what they love. The key is it must fit within your designated numbers. How much you can have completely depends upon you and your body. Someone with a higher metabolism can enjoy a little more and get away with it, while someone with a slower metabolism who is on very low calories will have to be much more conscious. But I believe it’s important to allow yourself your favorite foods to improve adherence in the long-term.

Now the biggest criticism I usually get when I talk about flexible dieting is that “You can’t tell me eating a Twinkie is the same as eating a bunch of vegetables.” Because I do preach that as long as you hit your macronutrient requirements results will be the same. But the thing is I’m not saying a Twinkie is the same as vegetables. What I’m saying is if eating that Twinkie and fitting it into your numbers keeps you from feeling restricted and binging and helps you stay on track, then it is just as good. I’d argue it’s BETTER in that instance, actually.

When it comes down to it, hitting your numbers is the most important factor when it comes to losing weight, regardless of where it comes from. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat plenty of nutrient rich foods, because they are certainly important. But it does mean you can have your cake and eat it too (I guess that’s what that means???) There are multiple studies that show whether your carbs are complex or simple, body composition and even most health markers are the same if your macronutrient intake is the same. (1, 2) People really like to demonize sugar but as we are starting to discover, it’s not necessarily the sugar that seems to be the problem in sugary snacks but actually the lack of fiber in them (more on that later.)

Now if you are new to all this you might be thinking “that’s great, but what the heck is a macronutrient?” Well I’m glad you asked. Everything we eat has some sort of macronutrient breakdown. The three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrate and fat. 1 gram of protein has 4 calories, 1 gram of carbs has 4 calories and 1 gram of fat has 9 calories. This is how the calorie count to everything you eat is made up.

With flexible dieting AKA IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) you have a certain number of protein, carbs and fat that is your goal to eat in a day. You can eat anything you want, but it has to fit within these specified numbers. No foods are off limits with this style of dieting. At first with no experience this probably sounds like a daunting task. Indeed it will be difficult and you won’t nail it right away. But in time as you get better at it this teaches you more about nutrition and your body than any textbook could possible teach you. The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to get close and be flexible with your dieting. So that you aren’t feeling like you’re on a diet!

The best part is you can have a little bit of the foods you love on a daily basis as long as it fits your numbers, so it teaches you moderation. Many people agree that some foods in moderation are okay, but since they are so restrictive with their diet, when it comes time to eat those “cheat” foods they don’t know what moderation is and they binge. This helps eliminate these experiences, and does away with even needing the term “cheat.” It takes away the “good foods vs. bad foods” approach and creates a healthy relationship with food. It allows you a way to eat in a way you can continue to eat the rest of your life, so you can finally lose the weight and keep it off.

Now one big complaint I’ll usually get when someone starts this type of diet is that they don’t want to track or don’t mind doing it for a bit but they don’t want to do it long-term. I get that, I really do. But what almost always ends up happening is that person finds that once they get good at it they only spend 5-10 minutes a day actually tracking, and being able to enjoy their favorite foods without feeling guilty and the feeling of finding a way they actually enjoy to lose weight is so great they don’t mind it at all. But even if you do eventually want to do away with tracking, this system teaches you so much about nutrition that you eventually should be able to eat intuitively without the need to track anymore. But I find it unlikely for that to happen without spending a decent period of time tracking and learning. You must learn about nutrition and your body first.

Okay so now you’ve learned a little more about what flexible dieting is and how it can help you enjoy your diet so you can have success long-term. But now I’m sure you’re wondering how you figure out what your numbers should be. Which is exactly what I will talk about next time!

If you are looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you will get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you are super sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll love it.

 

 

 

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“Eat Clean” vs “IIFYM”: Best of Both?

Disclaimer: this is not an educational article.  If you want to know more about Clean Eating or IIFYM, you will find oodles of information online.  Probably too much information, actually.  I’m writing this piece today to share how I’ve changed over time, why I did, and how I’ve blended the two nutrition philosophies in my current food choices.

I try to avoid it, but every so often, something blows up on Facebook about how to eat.  I thought the women on some fitness pages were bad, but the guys can get very aggressive.  I saw some bullying behaviors this weekend that would be actionable if it were done by kids at school.

I’ve said it before…

IT’S. JUST. FOOD.

We aren’t talking about politics or religion here, but…maybe we are?  In the fitness world, it sure seems like it sometimes.

I’m not an expert and I’m not going to cite research.  I’m going to share my nutritional evolution because I thought it was interesting when I reflected on how it has changed and why.  To be honest, what works for one person, may not work for the next.  We are genetically and environmentally different.  Heck – I’m different.  What works for me now wouldn’t have worked for me when I started.  My body is different now.  My daily activity level is different.  My body composition, chemistry, and my goals are what determine how I eat.  What used to determine how I eat was convenience and emotions.

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When I started in 2009, I knew as much as any regular person not involved in fitness.  “Eat healthier” meant “eat a vegetable every once in a while”.  I started by getting help.  I consulted with a nutrition coach once a month on the phone and through email between those consults.  She taught me how to log food, how to use the log to monitor how much I was eating, and she helped me with food substitutions that were less calorie dense so I could eat more while still creating a calorie deficit each day.  That’s how I gradually evolved into a “clean eater”.  Whole foods have fewer calories than processed ones, generally.  I also felt better eating whole foods.  Felt better not eating sugar, too.  Go back in this blog and I’m sure you will find a reference to how eating “food grown by God” seemed like the best way to feed a body.   I naturally moved away from sugar and chemicals in my food because it felt good.  Felt good psychologically, too, since I was at the beginning of my transformation.  I needed to do something completely different than what I was doing before.  

When I started bodybuilding, eating became more technical.  It wasn’t just about calories, it was about macros – proteins, carbs, and fats.  The bodybuilding culture has a short list of clean foods that some call “bro-foods”.  The bro-foods include eggs, chicken, tilapia, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, almonds, and olive oil.  I’m sure there a few things I missed.  I was going by my own memory.  But the gist is that there isn’t a lot of variety.  As in all things “food”, there is a social component to this approach.  There is a sense of belonging to a particular group if you eat like this.  Tuna!  I forgot tuna.  I remember when I was in my 20’s and first learned about bodybuilding from a guy who put a can of tuna on a baked potato.  That’s it.  I was fascinated.

In the last couple of years, the acronym, IIFYM, If It Fits Your Macros started flying around.  The basic idea is that a daily goal for each macro is set and what is eaten is not as important as hitting those targets.  This approach is infamous for the amount of processed foods, like Pop Tarts, consumed.  That’s the hype, not the reality for most who use IIFYM.   This is something I see discussed by guys more than gals.  Younger guys, in particular.   The online conversations I’ve read are dominated by guys.   They sometimes argue a bit about the merits of eating “bro-foods” vs IIFYM.

From the time I started bodybuilding and eating macros, I’ve been eating mostly bro-foods.  It was just easier – boring, but that didn’t bother me.  However, since the last time I was on stage in June 2013, I’ve been more flexible with my food choices.  Still following macro targets, but getting there with some foods that I used to think were “off limits”.  Some days are mostly whole foods – other days, not so much.  I’ve managed to keep my body weight and body composition fairly stable for the last year at a weight that is not contest lean. Instead, I’m about 15 lbs over stage weight at a body fat percentage that is healthy for a 52 year old me, 27%. (I may not get as lean as younger women because of visceral fat on my organs. I think i was around 15-16% when I’ve competed. That’s something I believe can be improved, btw). I am still over a year away from my next competition, so it’s all about lifting and recovery right now. .

Since I’ve played around with both approaches, here is what I’ve learned that works best for me.  Let’s keep score:

  • I feel better when I eat real food and not a lot of sugar.  However, being flexible has helped me put balance back into my life.  I had lasagna with the hubby last night.  Yum.   Clean = 1, IIFYM = 1
  • Because I’m in maintenance mode right now and my calorie burn each day seems to be creeping up, and the directive from coach was to keep fats and proteins stable, but cycle carbs to match the burn – well, I need carbs.  Lately, it seems I need more than you might expect and it’s easier to get them from non-clean foods like ice cream sandwiches.  (I get Skinny Cows because their macros are lower.  Some days, I only have room for one.  Other days,  two or three.)   Clean = 0, IIFYM = 1

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  • My bullet shake gives me more energy than just about anything I’ve ever consumed besides sweet potatoes. Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0

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  • Quest bars – not so much.  They’re good, but I don’t need so much fiber at one time. Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0
  • I don’t have a major problem with bread anymore.  I think not eating it often caused what I thought was a problem.  I keep the low-carb torillas in stock for the same reason I get Skinny Cow ice cream.  If I don’t have a lot of wiggle room, like on a rest day, I will use a tortilla instead of bread. Clean = 0, IIFYM = o

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  • Once a week, I don’t log food.  It’s usually a Saturday because that’s the day when the prepped food runs out and the new food isn’t cooked.  I end up eating fairly normally, but that’s also a day I’m likely to go out with hubby for a meal.  This is not a rule – it’s just something I’m doing right now to give myself a break.  I’m not in contest prep mode, so it’s OK.  A lot of people don’t log at all when they aren’t in prep mode.  I don’t mind logging.  I like data.  I’m a math teacher, you know. Clean = 0, IIFYM = 1 because I know what I eat on those days
  • I’m sitting in my kitchen right now.  As I look around I see apples, limes, bananas, squash, a beet, pears, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, dried cranberries, bread, and bagels.  Clean = 1, IIFYM = 0

TOTAL SCORES:

Clean = 4

IIFYM = 3

So I guess I’m basically a “clean” eater most of the time, but I’ve worked in some other things because I like them.  That’s how I eat now.  I could not have been as flexible when I started.  I didn’t have a structure in place, like the macro targets, to slam the breaks on binging.  Each day I have one of those moments when I’m hungry and just want to grab whatever, but don’t because 1) I am saving room in the macros for the rest of the day, or 2) I’m too lazy to log it.

I guess you could say that I’m using the structure IIFYM, but usually choosing clean foods to hit my macro goals.  I honestly don’t care to put a label on how I eat – it’s just food.  I eat to recover, to get stronger, to grow muscle, to be social, and some things just because they are yummy. When it’s time to cut, I’ll probably get better results this time around – or at least that is the plan.

 

 

 

 

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